Vaudeville Theatre


Vaudeville Theatre

:"This article discusses a performance space. For the theatrical genre, please see Vaudeville."Infobox Theatre
name = Vaudeville Theatre


caption = 1908 illustration
address = The Strand
city = Westminster, London
country =
designation = Grade II
latitude = 51.510556
longitude = -0.1225
architect = C. J. Phipps
owner = Nimax Theatres
capacity = 1,046 on 4 levels 690 (current)
type = West End theatre
opened = 16 April 1870
yearsactive =
rebuilt = 1882 C. J. Phipps 1926 Robert Atkins
closed =
othernames =
production = The Female of the Species
currentuse =
website = www.nimaxtheatres.com/vaudevilletheatre.asp

The Vaudeville Theatre is a West End theatre on The Strand in the City of Westminster. As the name suggests, the theatre held mostly vaudeville shows and musical revues in its early days. It opened in 1870 and was rebuilt twice, although each new building retained elements of the previous structure. The current building opened in 1926, and the capacity is now 690 seats. Rare "thunder drum" and "lightning sheets", together with other early stage mechanisms survive in the theatre.

History

Origins

The theatre was designed by prolific architect C. J. Phipps, decorated in a Romanesque style by George Gordon, and opened on April 16 1870 with Andrew Halliday's comedy, "For Love Or Money" and a burlesque, "Don Carlos or the Infante in Arms". A notable innovation was the concealed footlights, which would shut off if the glass in front of them was broken. [ [http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=46127 From: "Henrietta Street and Maiden Lane Area: Maiden Lane"] , Survey of London: volume 36: Covent Garden (1970), pp. 239-52. Date accessed, 28 March 2007] The owner, William Wybrow Robertson, had run a failing billiard hall on the site but saw more opportunity in theatre. He leased the new theatre to three actors, Thomas Thorne, David James, and H. J. Montague. [http://www.vaudevilletheatre.org.uk/ Vaudeville Theatre] accessed 28 Mar 2007] The original theatre stood behind two houses on the Strand, and the entrance was through a labyrinth of small corridors. It had a seating capacity of 1,046, rising in a horseshoe, over a pit and three galleries. The cramped site meant that facilities front and backstage were limited.

The great Shakespearean actor, Henry Irving, had his first conspicuous success as Digby Grant in James Albery's "Two Roses" at the Vaudeville in 1870, which held the theatre for what was at the time an extroardinarily successful run of 300 nights. The first theatre piece in the world to achieve 500 consecutive performances was the comedy "Our Boys" by H. J. Byron, which started its run at the Vaudeville in 1875. The production went on to surpass the 1,000 performance mark. This was such a rare event that London bus conductors approaching the Vaudeville Theatre stop shouted "Our Boys!" instead of the name of the theatre. [ [http://www.show-and-stay.co.uk/LONDON-THEATRES/vaudeville-theatre.html Profile of the theatre] ] Dramatist W. S. Gilbert presented one of his later plays, "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern", a burlesque "in Three Short 'Tableaux'" in 1891 (although he had published it in 1874 in "Fun magazine"). Also that year, Elizabeth Robins and Marion Lea directed and starred in Ibsen's "Hedda Gabler" at the theatre, and his "Rosmersholm" had its London premiere here.

's comedy, "Woodbarrow Farm", preceded by Herbert Keith's one-act play "The Note of Hand". This foyer is preserved today, as is the four storey frontage.

Gatti family

In 1892, Thorne passed the lease to restaurateurs Agostino and Stefano Gatti, who were also the owners of the lease of the nearby Adelphi Theatre, since 1878. The first production at the new theatre was a revival of "Our Boys". The lease briefly passed into the hands of Weedon Grossmith in 1894, but was back with the Gattis in 1896. The theatre became known for a series of successful musical comedies. "The French Maid", by Basil Hood, with music by Walter Slaughter, first played in London at Terry's Theatre under the management of W. H. Griffiths beginning in 1897 but transferred to the Vaudeville in early 1898, running for a very successful total of 480 London performances. The piece starred Louie Pounds. Seymour Hicks and his wife Ellaline Terriss starred in a series of Christmas entertainments here, including their popular "Bluebell in Fairyland" (1901). Sadly, the foyer of the theatre had become infamous as the site of an argument in 1897 between Richard Archer Prince and Terriss's father, actor William Terriss. Soon after that argument, the deranged Prince stabbed William Terriss to death at the stage door of the Adelphi Theatre in Maiden Lane. Prince was a struggling young actor whom Terriss had tried to help. [ [http://www.zip.com.au/~lnbdds/home/prince.htm Article about Terriss, Prince and the murder] ]

), and Louie Pounds.

John Maria and Rocco Gatti took over management of the Vaudeville in 1905. In 1906, the theatre hosted the very successful "The Belle of Mayfair", a musical composed by Leslie Stuart with a book by Basil Hood, Charles Brookfield, and Cosmo Hamilton, produced by Hicks' partner, Charles Frohman. It ran for 431 performances and starred Edna May, Louie and her brother Courtice Pounds, and Camille Clifford. In 1910, an English adaptation of "The Girl in the Train" ("Die geschiedene Frau" – literally, "The Divorcee"), a 1908 Viennese operetta by Leo Fall), opened at the Vaudeville. It was produced by George Edwardes, with lyrics by Adrian Ross and starred Robert Evett, Phyllis Dare, and Rutland Barrington. In 1911, William Greet produced "Baby Mine" at the theatre. Betty Bolton made her debut in 1916, at the age of 10, in a revue called "Some", at the theatre. During and after World War I, audiences sought light entertainment, and musical revues held the Vaudeville stage, incluing "Cheep" (1917), the long-running "Just Fancy" (1920), and "Rats" (1923), another popular revue. Albert Ketèlbey was one of the theatre's music directors.

The theatre closed on November 7 1925 when the interior was completely reconstructed to designs by Robert Atkins. The auditorium was changed from a horseshoe shape to the current rectangle shape, and the seating capacity reduced to just over 700. A new dressing room block with an ornate boardroom extended the site to Maiden Lane. The theatre reopened on February 23 1926 with a popular revue by Archie de Bear called "R.S.V.P.", notable because its final rehearsal was broadcast by the BBC. The theatre then hosted William Somerset Maugham's comedy, "The Bread-Winner" in 1930. After World War II, the theatre prestented William Douglas Home's play, "The Chiltern Hundreds", which ran for 651 performances. The record-setting musical "Salad Days", composed by Julian Slade with lyrics by Dorothy Reynolds and Slade, premiered at the Bristol Old Vic in 1954 but soon transferred to the Vaudeville, enjoying the longest run of any theatrical work up to that point in history. Another notable production at the theatre was Arnold Wesker's 1959 play, "Chips with Everything".

Modern era

A proposed redevelopment of Covent Garden by the GLC in 1968 saw the theatre under threat, together with the nearby Adelphi, Garrick, Lyceum and Duchess theatres. An active campaign by Equity, the Musicians' Union, and theatre owners under the auspices of the "Save London Theatres Campaign" led to the abandonment of the scheme.

Cicely Courtneidge played at the theatre in "The Bride Comes Back" (1960) and Ray Cooney's "Move Over Mrs. Markham" (1971). Bill Treacher made his West End debut in 1963 in the comedy "Shout for Life" at the Vaudeville. In 1966, the theatre hosted "Arsenic and Old Lace", starring Sybil Thorndike and her husband Lewis Casson. Brigid Brophy's "The Burglar" premiered at the theatre in 1967, and Joyce Rayburn's comedy, "The Man Most Likely To...", opened initially at the Vaudeville in 1968 and went on to run for over 1,000 performances in London.

In 1969, the Gatti family sold their interest in the theatre to Sir Peter Saunders, and in 1970 he commissioned Peter Rice to redesign the interior. Among other changes were a deep red wallpaper in the auditorium and more comfortable seats. Also, the loggia above the street was glazed to make the balcony an extension of the bar. The backstage lighting was rerigged, and a forestage lift and counterweight flying system were installed. The theatre achieved some protection in 1972 when it was Grade II listed. [ [http://www.imagesofengland.org.uk/search/details.aspx?pid=1&id=427800 English Heritage Listing details for Theatre] accessed 27 Mar 2007] [ [http://www.imagesofengland.org.uk/search/details.aspx?pid=1&id=416678 English Heritage Listing details for Maiden Lane entrance and dressing room block] accessed 27 Mar 2007] In 1983, ownership passed to Michael Codron and David Sutton. Stephen Waley-Cohen took ownership in 1996, passing it to Max Weitzenhofer in 2002.

Meanwhile, drama was added to the standard bill of fare at the theatre. Hugh Paddick starred in the Joyce Rayburn farce "Out on a Limb" at the theatre in 1976, and Patrick Cargill and Moira Lister co-starred in the farce "Key for Two" in 1982. Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit" was revived at the theatre in 1986, and Willy Russell's play "Shirley Valentine" played in 1988, starring Pauline Collins. In 1990, Simon Gray's play "Hidden Laughter" was produced at the theatre, followed by Kander and Ebb's 1991 musical, "70, Girls, 70", starring Dora Bryan.

A 1996 revival of "Salad Days", starring the duo Kit and The Widow, was not successful, but Jean Fergusson's show "She Knows You Know!", in which she portrayed the comedienne Hylda Baker, played at the theatre in 1997 and was nominated for a 1998 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Entertainment. [ [http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0272647/ Information about "She Knows You Know!"] at the IMDB database] "Showtune", a musical revue celebrating the words and music of composer Jerry Herman was given a London production at the Vaudeville in 1998 under its previous title "The Best of Times". That same year the theatre housed "Kat and the Kings", which won the Olivier for Best New Musical and, in an unusual move, Best Actor in a Musical for its entire cast. "Madame Melville", a play by Richard Nelson was presented in 2000. It marked the return of Macaulay Culkin to acting after a six year hiatus and also starred Irene Jacob and Madeleine Potter.

Since September 2002, the dance/performance art troupe "Stomp" has been in residence at the theatre. It was announced on 19 July 2007 that the production would close on Sunday 23 September 2007 after a run of exaclty five years at the venue.

Since 2003, the theatre has been owned by Max Weitzenhoffer, and in 2005, the venue was brought under the management of Nimax Theatres Limited.

Recent and present productions

* "Pageant" (1 August 2000 - 30 September 2000) by Albert Evans, Bill Russell and Frank Kelly
* "Mindgame" (5 June 2000 - 8 July 2000) by Anthony Horowitz
* "Madame Melville" (18 October 2000 - 11 March 2001) by Richard Nelson, starring Macaulay Culkin
* "God Only Knows" (20 March 2001 - 9 June 2001) by Hugh Whitemore
* "Caught in the Net - Run For Your Wife 2" (29 August 2001 - 29 June 2002) by Ray Cooney
* "Betty" (9 July 2002 - 3 August 2002) by Karen McLachlan
* "Sonic Waffle" (10 September 2002 - 21 September 2002) by Ross Noble
* "Stomp" (25 September 2002 - 23 September 2007) "transferred to Ambassadors Theatre"
* "Swimming with Sharks" (16 October 2007 - 19 January 2008) by Michael Lesslie, starring Christian Slater
* "The Importance of Being Earnest" (22 January 2008 - 26 April 2008), starring Penelope Keith
* "The Deep Blue Sea" (29 April 2008 - 5 July 2008) by Terance Rattigan, starring Greta Scacchi
* "The Female of the Species" (13 July 2008 -) by Joanna Murray Smith, starring Eileen Atkins, Con O'Neill and Anna Maxwell Martin

Nearby Tube Stations

* Charing Cross
* Embankment
* Covent Garden

Notes

References

* "Guide to British Theatres 1750-1950", John Earl and Michael Sell pp. 144-5 (Theatres Trust, 2000) ISBN 0-7136-5688-3
* [http://www.thisistheatre.com/londontheatre/vaudevilletheatre.html Information about the theatre]
* [http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/VaudevilleTheatre.htm Vaudeville Theatre history]
* [http://www.show-and-stay.co.uk/LONDON-THEATRES/vaudeville-theatre.html Profile of the theatre]
* [http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=46127#s3 History of the site and theatre]

External links

* [http://www.thisistheatre.com/shows/vaudevilleshows.html List of recent shows at the theatre]


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